The Wendish Crusade (German: Wendenkreuzzug) was an 1147 campaign, one of the Northern Crusades and also a part of the Second Crusade, led primarily by the Kingdom of Germany inside the Holy Roman Empire and directed against the Polabian Slavs (or "Wends").
By the early 12th century, the German archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion of neighboring pagan West Slavs to Christianity through peaceful means. During the preparation of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, however, a papal bull was issued which supported a crusade against these Slavs.
The Slavic leader Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June, 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders in late summer, 1147. They achieved an ostensible baptism of Slavs at Dobin and were repulsed from Demmin. Another crusading army marched on the already Christian city Szczecin, whereupon the crusaders dispersed upon arrival.
The Christian army, composed primarily of Saxons and Danes, forced tribute from the pagan Slavs and affirmed German control of Wagria and Polabia, but failed to convert the bulk of the population immediately.
The Ottonian dynasty supported eastward expansion of the Holy Roman Empire towards Wendish (West Slavic) lands during the 10th century. The campaigns of King Henry the Fowler and Emperor Otto the Great led to the introduction of burgwards to protect German conquests in the lands of the Sorbs. Otto's lieutenants, Margraves Gero and Hermann Billung, advanced eastward and northward respectively to claim tribute from conquered Slavs. Bishoprics were established at Meissen, Brandenburg, Havelberg, and Oldenburg to administer the territory. A great Slavic rebellion in 983 reversed the initial German gains, however. While the burgwards allowed the Saxons to retain control of Meissen, they lost Brandenburg and Havelberg. The Elbe River thus became the eastern limit of German-Roman control.
By the early 12th century, the Archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion of the pagan Slavs to Christianity through peaceful means: notable missionaries included Vicelin, Norbert of Xanten, and Otto of Bamberg. Lacking support from the Salian dynasty of theHoly Roman Empire, secular Saxon princes seeking Slavic territory found themselves in a military stalemate with their adversaries. Christians, especially Saxons from Holstein, and pagans raided each other across the Limes Saxonicus, usually for tribute.
From 1140-43 Holsatian nobles advanced into Wagria to permanently settle in the lands of the pagan Wagri. Count Adolf II of Holstein and Henry of Badewide took control of Polabian settlements which would later become Lübeck and Ratzeburg; Vicelin was subsequently installed as bishop at Oldenburg. Adolf sought peace with the chief of the Obodrite confederacy, Niklot, and encouraged German colonization and missionary activity in Wagria.
Pope Eugene III
The fall of Edessa in 1144 shocked Christendom, causing Pope Eugenius III and St. Bernard of Clairvaux to preach a Second Crusade to reinforce Outremer. While many south Germans volunteered to crusade in the Middle East, the north German Saxons were reluctant. They told Bernard of their desire to campaign against the Slavs at a Reichstag meeting in Frankfurt on 13 March 1147. Approving of the Saxons' plan, pope Eugenius issued a papal bull known as the Divina dispensatione on 13 April; there was to be no difference between the spiritual rewards of the different crusaders. Those who volunteered to crusade against the Slavs were primarily Danes, Saxons, and Poles, although there were also some Bohemians. The German monarchy took no part in the crusade, which was led by Saxon families such as the Ascanians, Wettin, and Schauenburgers.
|A papal Legate, |
from the Decretals of Boniface VIII(1294 to 1303).
British Museum, 23923.
Papal legate Anselm of Havelberg was placed in overall command.